5 Key Remaining Fixtures in Bayern Munich's Bundesliga Title Quest
Bayern Munich began the second half of their Bundesliga season on Friday and now have 16 games left to see out their lead in the table.
The German record champions have won the last three league titles and are heavily favored to make it four in a row this spring. However, they will have to negotiate some serious obstacles in the coming months.
B/R has picked out the five biggest tests Bayern will face between now and season's end, ranking them in order of increasing difficulty. Click "Begin Slideshow" to see our picks, starting with number five.
5) Hertha, Away
There are several possibilities for the top five, but Hertha away edges Schalke at home as one of Bayern’s top tests. The Berlin side are flying high in third place in the Bundesliga table, although by the time they face Bayern on April 22, there’s a good chance they’ll have fallen back to earth.
Still, Hertha could be a serious test for Bayern because they’ll enter the match with no expectations and will have the benefit of having plenty of young, burgeoning talents just waiting for the opportunity to make a breakthrough. Mitchell Weiser and Sinan Kurt are ex-Bayern players who will be especially eager to prove a point against the side that let them leave without ever giving them much of a chance to show their quality at the professional level.
4) Leverkusen, Away
Bayer Leverkusen are a notoriously volatile side, one that in all likelihood will either put up a valiant fight against Bayern or get hammered.
Manager Roger Schmidt's men finished the first half of the campaign fifth in the Bundesliga table and have some ground to make up, but they are in every way capable of doing so. A year ago, they pushed Bayern to 120 minutes in the DFB-Pokal before losing on penalties. They similarly pushed Atletico Madrid to the very limit in the Champions League.
Leverkusen have a new weapon in Javier Hernandez, who could make all the difference. And playing at home, they'll have a bit of an advantage in their February 6 match.
3) Wolfsburg, Away
Bayern's biggest humiliation of 2015 came against Wolfsburg last January, in their first match after the Bundesliga restart. The Lower Saxony side earned a 4-1 win on their home turf, inspired by heroics from Kevin de Bruyne and Bas Dost.
This time, the Wolves will be without both of the players that led them to victory, with the Belgian de Bruyne having been sold to Manchester City and the Dutchman Dost having sustained a foot injury during a January practice that should keep him out of action until after the February 27 match.
Given Dost's injury and the fact that Bayern managed to beat them twice during the fall, Wolfsburg aren't among the top two most difficult hurdles. But they have a strong squad with plenty of class all around and could yet conjure some magic to stun manager Pep Guardiola and company.
2) Monchengladbach, Home
The only home game on this list is Bayern's run-in with Borussia Monchengladbach on April 29. The German giants are almost unbeatable at home, but if there's one team that looks capable of having their number at the Allianz Arena this spring, it's Gladbach.
Manager Andre Schubert's side stunned Bayern last month, going 3-0 ahead before ultimately claiming a 3-1 win. The Bavarians will probably be more wary of their opponents next time, and they will benefit from having home-field advantage. Yet last March, Gladbach beat Bayern, 2-0, at the Allianz Arena. Indeed, the last time Bayern beat Gladbach was two years ago, on January 24, 2014. So what might seem like business as usual may prove to be anything but.
1) Dortmund, Away
Bayern's biggest test will be against their most serious rivals for the Bundesliga title, Borussia Dortmund. The league leaders won't take the match lightly—they didn't in the fall and earned an emphatic 5-1 win against manager Thomas Tuchel's side.
It was a rude awakening for BVB, and Bayern can expect a tougher game this spring. Dortmund will have the experience of their humiliation as motivation to improve, and playing with the home fans behind them will be a big advantage. Critically, the match is scheduled at a difficult time for Bayern, who visit Wolfsburg a week before.